Underdog (animation)

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"There's no need to fear -- Underdog is here!"

One of Total Television's most famous Animated Series, Underdog was a canine parody of Superman which debuted on NBC in 1964 and moved to CBS in 1966. Usually, each half-hour episode consisted of two chapters of a four-part Underdog story, separated by an unrelated TTV short.

Underdog's alter ego was "humble, lovable Shoeshine Boy". When summoned by TV reporter Sweet Polly Purebred, Shoeshine Boy dashed into the nearest phone booth and emerged in his heroic costume. For some unexplained reason, Underdog always spoke in rhyme. His foes included the mad scientist Dr. Simon Bar Sinister and his henchman, Cad Lackey (voice caricatures of Lionel Barrymore and Humphrey Bogart), and the lupine crime boss Riff Raff (based on George Raft).

Supporting segments included Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales, Go Go Gophers and Klondike Kat. The series' voice talent included Wally Cox as Underdog/Shoeshine Boy and Norma McMillan as Sweet Polly Purebred.

A live-action film that just happened to be called Underdog was released by Walt Disney Pictures in 2007.

Underdog also inspired a well-remembered, well-loved Macy's Thanksgiving Day balloon, as evidenced by this commercial, made 35 years after the balloon's debut.

You might've heard the theme song thanks to being Sampled Up by Wu-Tang Clan on their "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta F' Wit". Parts of the Underdog theme song could also be heard in Wheels!, an Apple Macintosh game aimed at disabled children.

(For the Japanese manga of the same name, click here)


Tropes used in Underdog (animation) include:
  • Animal Superheroes
  • Animated Series
  • Arranged Marriage: Underdog was forced into a marriage with an alien princess in "Zot." He doesn't follow through, though, and the princess marries someone else. And that's after Underdog defeats a Two-headed dragon that was menacing the aliens, also making it an inversion of Rescue Romance.
  • Beach Episode: A storyboarded idea involved Underdog and Polly going to the beach and playing super-volleyball with a horde of robotic aliens in "The Nug of Nog."
  • Big Bad: Dr. Simon Bar Sinister
  • Bragging Theme Tune
  • Cartoonish Supervillainy: Simon Bar Sinister
  • Catch Phrase: "It's hip, hip, hip, and away I go!"
    • "There's no need to fear. Underdog is here!"
    • "The secret compartment of my ring I fill / with an Underdog super energy pill."
    • Simon Bar Sinister would frequently preface an imperative with "Simon says..."
  • Chaste Hero: He seems to be rather eager to escape Polly's advances.
  • Cliff Hanger
  • Combat Tentacles: The Guard from "The Bubbleheads."
  • Cool Gate: Simon Bar Sinister has one bearing his surname.
  • Counterfeit Cash: The opening of every episode shows a customer tossing a nickel to Shoeshine Boy, and Shoeshine Boy biting the nickel. This was an old trick dating back to The Great Depression, to tell if a nickel was real or just a wooden disc painted to look vaguely nickel-like. (He was adhering to the old adage "Don't take any wooden nickels!")
  • Criminal Doppelganger: One of Underdog's enemies was his exact double, Tap-Tap the Chiseler, who didn't have any of Underdog's powers. It didn't stop Tap-Tap from using Underdog's image to get stuff like bombs without anyone batting an eye.
  • Cute Clumsy Dog
  • Disney Death: Underdog himself several times, e.g., in "A New Villain" and "The Silver Thieves".
  • Damsel in Distress: Sweet Polly Purebred, in practically every episode.
    • Subverted in "The Phony Booths", where Polly takes it upon herself to stop the Phony Booths. By that time, Simon Bar Sinister has gotten Underdog under his control, so he sends Underdog to stop Polly. However, Love Redeems, and because of this, Polly saves Underdog for a change.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: Would get him into some serious trouble if it weren't for his Hero Insurance.
  • Dumb Muscle / Evil Minion: Cad to Simon, as well as Mooch to Riff Raff. Then again, they're not much dumber than the average citizen on this show.
  • Every Episode Ending:

Man 1: Look, up in the sky! It's a bird!
Man 2: It's a plane!
Woman: It's a frog!
Man 1: A frog?
Underdog: Not bird, nor plane, nor even frog, / It's just little old me— (crash) Underdog.